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Pope Francis finds rock star treatment ‘offensive’

For Catholics, Wednesday marks the start of Lent: a time of reflection, atonement, and heightened humility. This year, the festival will overlap with the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ election – and the Catholic leader is unhappy with the level of celebrity accompanying the commemorations.

“To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me,” he told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published today.

Even before the Vatican began issuing commemorative coins, stamps and a DVD in advance of the March 13 anniversary, this pontiff had an unprecedented pop cultural following. A street artist emblazoned a Vatican City wall with an image of Francis soaring through the air like Superman in January, around the same time the Pope made the cover of Rolling Stone – a Papal first.

In the interview, Francis protested his rock star treatment. “The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone else. A normal person,” he said.

Over the next 44 days, Catholics worldwide will endeavor to humble themselves through fasting and self-denial, but Pope Francis’ Lenten struggle may be uniquely paradoxical: his insistence on normality seems only to elevate his followers’ adulation. Indeed, even a recent accidental f-bomb during his weekly address was embraced as simply another sign of his superhuman normalcy.